28.9.19

AN AVERAGE HAND CONTAINS A STRAIGHT, ACE HIGH.

Do the math, dear reader, there are four hands of thirteen cards in contract bridge, thus, although in social play there is an above-the-line bonus for holding the cards of a royal flush in one hand, that's only ten high card points, and it helps to have a few more honor cards to essay a contract.


Seventeen high-card points and distribution in my hand; ten high card points and some strength in the suits other than Hearts.  Here's what I mean about a not-regular Saturday bridge column: this simulation dates to late June, while I was still attempting to understand how the bots bid, thus I did a simple raise, and the partner bot interpreted that (correctly) as sufficient length in Hearts.  Game on.  West leads the ♥2 (leading conventions are not something I fully understand, particularly bottom from three in the trump suit): Three, Six, Eight.  Cheap trick: perhaps that was intended to take one ruff in Clubs or Spades away, given West's short holdings.

No obvious way to avoid losing a trick each to the ♠A and the ♦A; there's a ♣K and a lot of establishable Clubs outstanding should I make a major error.  Otherwise, looks like ten tricks, forced.

I opt for what I understand to be a safe course: ♣2 to the Ace (there aren't enough Clubs in my control to worry about combinations); lead the ♣Q to a ruff (all the Hearts in hand are controlling); lead the ♠K with the intent of smoking out the Ace and promoting the Queen and Jack; West covers, so far so good, returns the ♦2 (again, bottom of three?): Three, Eight, Queen.  The ♦A is still out, we'll see that it's immaterial whether playing it now or saving it to cover the King.  (But there was one time, in a simulation I didn't record, when the East bot was holding the King to guard the Queen and it didn't grasp that when West showed out, I had that King surrounded, for at least one overtrick.  Information technologies aren't necessarily more clever than humans.)  Again, I opt to drive out the Ace with the ♦5: Four, King, Ace.  But now there are no Diamonds left in hand, and when East returns the ♦6, I cover with the ♥J, lead out the three remaining Hearts, then the ♠Q that I promoted at the fourth trick, the ♠7 to the ♠J and we're done.  In retrospect the ♠2 in hand to the Jack, then back with the Six to the Queen, and lead out the Seven for an overtrick rather than having to lead the ♣J to West's King in garbage time might have been better practice.  It takes time to develop sufficient sight of the table to consider that possibility, or to watch for West covering the Two with the Three, which promotes the Nine ...

MAYBE AFTER THEY'VE TRIED EVERYTHING ELSE, THEY'LL DO THE RIGHT THING.

Yahoo Finance's Andy Serwer asserts California's war with Trump is destroying America.
The president and California are engaging on dozens of other legal fronts, including over laws governing the census, immigration and health care.

But even more than that, the California v. Trump tussle is emblematic of a bigger conflict playing out across the country right now, a growing power struggle between the states and the federal government. At issue is which entity has legal authority over everything from gun owner rights to marijuana.

The implications for business and investors are massive. Imagine a country with 50 sets of regulations and standards across every industry. We’re not close to that yet, but the trend in our union at this point is moving clearly towards disunion.
Mr Serwer appears to be asserting that the states must be operating units of the national government. I'm not persuaded. Institutions emerge to conserve on transaction costs, and (to take one example) what a president in a remote distant capital, or for that matter, a state legislature say about automobile emissions or the content of school textbooks might be less relevant than a standard that emerges among the producers and consumers of those goods or services.  Thus, for example, building cars to conform to California's environmental standards might make good business sense, no matter what Our President might want: and publishing textbooks that conform to California's pedagogical standards likewise.  (See what I did there: local control of schoolbooks might be even more fraught than local control of automobiles.)

Mr Serwer notes that union and disunion are constantly in tension.  "Defining the power of the states versus the federal government has vexed our country since its inception. Who holds sway over taxation and education for instance has divided our nation, and of course the Civil War was fought over southern states wanting to maintain slavery."  He appears to be placing his marker in favor of centralization and standardization, and yet he concedes that fifty laboratories of democracy might be desirable.  "Exactly how much power each side should have, however, wasn’t explicitly spelled out and has been a source of friction ever since."  Indeed, and the states that are objecting to Presidential Arbitrariness today are not the states objecting to Presidential Arbitrariness yesterday.  "But with the election of President Trump we are seeing a major reset, as suddenly liberals and blue states become states’ righters, in opposition to new conservative federal mandates and laws."  The Tenth Amendment is in the Federal Constitution for a reason.

Mr Serwer continues,
But the larger point is that states’ rights has become a liberal thing. And that’s pretty strange for someone of my generation. Still, while this new blue states’ rights movement has all the momentum right now, conservative anti-Federalism is by no means dead.
That might not be a bad thing.
Couple both of those strains with years of gridlock in Washington and I think we are beginning to see the emergence of a new era in the delicate balance of Federalism. In short, power is shifting to the states. I don’t think we’re heading straight to a European Union system—which is itself coming apart to a degree—but the trend is not the United States of America’s friend.

“Whenever there’s a Democratic president, Republican states push for more autonomy. Whenever there’s a Republican president, Democratic states push for more autonomy,” says Joachim Klement, head of investment research at Fidante Partners and trustee of the CFA Institute Research Foundation, author of “Red States, Blue States: Two Economies, One Nation.” But Klement notes that things are in fact “getting more intense.”


No doubt.

“It concerns me a lot of political polarization and one-party rule you have in more and more states, be it Democrat and Republican means disparities between states are only getting bigger,” Klement continues. “Polarization in Washington translates to polarization at the state level, and seeps back into politics, that’s a dangerous development.”
Perhaps the best thing for the national government to do might be to back off.  Think about the way that "compromise" at the federal level, (often under the guise of "bipartisan consensus") ameliorates a current tussle, only to set the stage for a future, more destructive tussle.  Think also, dear reader, about the so-called Progressive Era amendments to the Constitution, one of which had to be repealed soon thereafter, another of which well may have turned the Senate from a deliberative body into an audition hall for the presidency.

I stand by those claims despite Mr Serwers closing fears.
And of course to business people this is anathema. One of the greatest societal and economic strengths of this country is our rule of law, which in most cases is one rule of law. Americans accept legal heterogeneity when it comes to say speed limits and tax rates. Yet despite some crazy blue laws, our country functions because it is a union.

This new tilt, empowering states at the expense of the federal government, might feel good for some of the people some of the time, but it sure doesn’t bode well for all of the people all of the time.
On the other hand, as a savvy politician facing a way worse secular challenge noted about fooling all of the people all of the time, perhaps finding the mix of local, state, and federal policies that are least unacceptable for sufficiently many people most of the time might be the best any governance structure can do.

27.9.19

A TEN YEAR TIME HORIZON.

When I hired out at Northern Illinois University, local thinking was that the Metra commuter train would be coming to DeKalb sometime in the next ten years.

I hired out in 1986.  There is still no Metra commuter train.  There is still sentiment for getting it extended.


That poster was in the window of the House Cafe, which itself came in, changed owners a few times, and ultimately closed, and the poster has since been removed.  But it offered a decent view of the Overland Route while it lasted.

Now, though, DeKalb residents will have enhanced opportunities to ride a connecting bus to the train at Elburn.
“This idea has been talked about for probably close to a decade,” Second Ward Alderperson Bill Finucane said during the council’s discussion. “To finally see it come into fruition is very gratifying.”

The current service offers four bus lines to Elburn train station on Friday afternoons and three on Sunday afternoons when NIU is in full session, according to the huskieline website. The new service will operate one trip per morning Mondays through Sundays and one trip per afternoon Mondays through Thursdays, with services operating Saturday afternoons as well, according to the proposed document. Friday and Sunday afternoon scheduling would remain the same.
The four Friday and three Sunday trips are primarily for students heading toward Chicago in the mid-to-late afternoon: whether the new schedules will be for the benefit of commuters or of shoppers remains to be seen.  The service will receive a subsidy from the state Department of Transportation, let's see when the first complaint about transportation subsidies crops up.

A PLEA FOR TRADE-TESTED BETTERMENTS.

Jill Richardson sees in the fuss over drinking straws or incandescent light bulbs a deflection.  "Polluting industries want you to think the climate crisis is your fault, not theirs."  I suspect she's making the case that industries that currently pollute want to engage in rent-seeking behavior to protect their rents, including by pointing out the follies of banning light bulbs or drinking straws.  That is, "It’s tempting to look for easy ways to fix big problems by trimming around the edges to avoid making the real changes you don’t want to make. Tempting, but not feasible."

Get to her conclusion, though, and read this.
We should be looking for win-win solutions to the climate crisis: solutions that create jobs and preserve quality of life and individual freedoms while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions.

In order to do that, we need to curb the corrupt influence of polluting industries that are profiting off of carbon emissions while harming the future of our planet. And, when they try to distract us with light bulbs and drinking straws, we can’t allow ourselves to be fooled.
At least she isn't accusing those same industries of bragging on how they are burning less fuel and making more money.  The horror: a win-win meaning splitting gains from trade.

TAXES AND CORRUPTION. LET'S LIVE THERE.

Sorry, no.
Interestingly, if you look only at the rate of people leaving one state for another, Illinois doesn’t particularly stand out. Illinois ranked No. 21 — near the middle of the pack — on the rate of domestic out-migration in 2017, the most recent year for which those estimates are available.

Where Illinois really lags, the data shows, is in attracting new residents. In 2017, Illinois’ rate of in-migration was third-to-last nationally, even when factoring in people who moved to Illinois from other countries.

Census data shows that since 2013, in-migration has been decreasing in Illinois with out-migration mostly rising.
Some of the migration is of people still working in the Chicago area, but looking for more favorable tax treatment (and real estate prices: there are a lot of distressed neighborhoods around Chicago, there is also a steep rent gradient for housing close to the Loop and the Gold Coast.)
[Indiana convention and visitors' authority president Speros] Batistatos said that despite the state border, people moving into northwest Indiana are still part of Chicagoland: same television stations, same time zone, similar commuting times, same sports teams and access to cultural amenities.

Census data on commuter flows indicates that roughly a fourth of all employed people who live in Lake County, Indiana, work in Illinois. So even though people like [new Indiana resident Carla] Thacker may be trading driver’s licenses and voting places, they often remain connected to Chicago.

Incidentally, though Lake County is often portrayed as a beneficiary of Illinois’ woes, the county has actually been losing population recently as well. The decreases are small, but Lake has been shrinking since 2010.

And although about twice as many people moved from Illinois to Indiana in 2017 than the other way around, the percentage of Indiana residents who left for Illinois is about the same as the percentage of Illinois residents who moved to Indiana — 0.25% and 0.23%, respectively.
Although the article comes to no conclusion as to the effect of taxes on outmigration, it doesn't rule out such an effect. Probably properly so.

AUTHORITIES AND AMENITIES RARELY GO WELL TOGETHER.

We've noted the phenomenon with bar cars on commuter trains and cafe cars on regional trains, and, for that matter, that might be why the dining car is endangered on Amtrak.

Sometimes the problem is a lack of imagination, and sometimes it's about Standardized Procedure.  Thus might be why San Francisco can't properly staff its vintage streetcars on Market Street and the Embarcadero.
Muni can’t train enough operators to maintain its current level of service on the F-Market & Wharves historic streetcar line, the agency revealed Tuesday.

Those colorful historic streetcars run up and down Market Street from the Castro to Fisherman’s Wharf, and are oft-the apple of tourists’ eyes. They hail from Italy, from Los Angeles, from Philadelphia, and beyond.
I suspect there's something about job descriptions at work.
The problems on the F historic streetcars are particularly pronounced, she said. Only one in three Muni operators graduate from historic streetcar training, she said, whereas more than 85 percent of Muni bus operators graduate training.

It’s a tough type of transit to learn. Many of the streetcars hail from different parts of the country, or the world, and use different piloting mechanisms. The Milan car from Italy, Kirschbaum noted, is only steered by hand, no foot-pedals required.

On top of that, operators of a heftier size have also complained that the streetcars — some made in the early 1900s — were built when people tended to be smaller.
That is, there's a standard protocol for mastering the 'bus, and acquainting operators with the most difficult spaces to maneuver them in.  Pro tip: the pivot point of the 'bus is the rear wheels, which means you don't con them the same way you might con a Smart Car, or even a stretch Hummer.

But "steered by hand?"  That reminds me of a lawsuit, years ago, where a motorist sued the North Shore Line for the interurban motorman "cutting her off" on the Sixth Street viaduct.

Control systems evolved on streetcars.  The Milan cars have the drum-switch controller and a brake lever, the way Frank Sprague and George Westinghouse intended.  As does this Chicago streetcar, in preservation at the nearby Illinois Railway Museum.


The foot-pedal controls came later, with the Electric Railway Presidents Conference Committee Car, note here that the locution "PCC Car" does not include a redundancy.  These controls were an attempt to have more similarities between the streetcar and the trackless trolley or motor bus, as well as keeping the operator's hands relatively free to count change and punch transfers.

There's one of those also regularly operating at the museum.


Yes, operators require different trainings to operate the various cars, and, as museum railroads are subject to Federal Railroad Administration jurisdiction, the operators can be subject to the same sanctions as their counterparts on Muni.

But museum operators are volunteers, running the cars for the fun of the experience.  Turn it into paid work, and they might have the same objections as Muni's streetcar crews.
Transport Workers Union Local 250-A President Roger Marenco, who represents Muni operators, also used to drive the F streetcar himself.

He said the reason Muni has trouble attracting streetcar operators because they instituted onerous split-shifts.

“I don’t need two hours to eat a damn burrito,” Marenco said.

He added, “we are against any service cuts, period.”
The two-piece working day is a common practice in urban transportation, as the base service gets augmented with additional trips at the rush hour. I suspect that's de rigueur with school bus operators, who do a lot of hiring among retired or moonlighting workers. But to create a separate class of part-time trolley operators isn't going to blend well with a union contract.

26.9.19

THE HEALTHY ORIGINS OF THE GERMAN BEER COASTER.

The well-off could buy a ceramic mug with a silver lid, the celebrating burghers also would like to keep the bugs out of their beer.
In 1892, Robert Spruth an inventor from Dresden, came up with a machine that produced the first cardboard Bierdeckel. Wood pulp was pressed into molds, and the water squeezed out. Then the finished pieces could be popped out of the mold. Unfortunately, they didn’t have much staying power, and the production was a bit cumbersome. Then in 1903 Casimir Otto Katz of Murgtal took the idea and twisted it a bit. He devised a way to make Bierdeckel out of sheets of wood pulp from Spruce Fibers. The disks were punched out of the sheets. Not only was this a more efficient way to make them, the long spruce fibers were highly absorbent, for better staying power.
Yes, and being made of the same material that goes into paper, they take printing.
75% of all Bierdeckel around the world are still made in German at the Katz company. Hard to imagine, but the company can produce between 5 and 7 MILLION coasters a DAY. Wood for the pulp is sourced locally in the Black Forest. But don’t panic about clear cutting forests for coasters! The Black Forest is a carefully managed ecosystem. The smaller trees and brush are constantly being cleared to make room and keep the forest healthy. It’s these smaller “extra” trees that are used to make German Beer Coasters.
Some, apparently, are large enough to cover the Mass, or to keep the condensation ring off the furniture.


The railing on the deck, not so much.  We have spar varnish for that.

And now, dear reader, with the Milwaukee Brewers still chasing a pennant, and the Packers playing (and football on a school night is an atrocity, even in the biggest league) it is time to sign off.

Prosit!

LET ASSIMILATION DO ITS WORK.

Ben Sixsmith offers an intriguing proposition, "How American [Classical - Ed.] Liberalism is Co-Opting Islam."  I inserted the "classical" to distinguish the basis of his premise from the boutique multiculturalism that sometimes gets tagged as "liberal."
The magazine Sports Illustrated publishes, for some reason, a “swimsuit issue” filled with bikini models. This year’s issue featured a young Muslim model in a “burkini,” which ensured that both her body and her hair were covered.
The magazine's core readership used to be late adolescent or early adult males, and there used to be some dead time in the major sports calendar between the end of football and the basketball or hockey playoffs, but I digress.

Here's the classical liberalism.
While the model might have covered up, she was still lazing in the surf, her hands behind her head, as her swimsuit hugged her contours. To be clear, I am not proposing that there was any intent on the part of Sports Illustrated - and still less on the part of the model—to subvert the traditional significance of Islamic dress. But it still seems obvious that drawing attention to womanly curves undercuts the intended modesty of the hijab.

The accidental subversive genius of American liberalism has been in presenting the hijab not as a symbol of faith but as a symbol of choice. Right-wing critics resent this because, of course, the hijab is often imposed on people rather than being chosen. By encouraging Muslims to defend traditional dress on the grounds of choice, though, liberals and leftists have encouraged them to internalize individualistic standards. The hijab becomes less of a religious symbol, virtuously accepted according to God’s will, than an aspect of one’s personal identity, which one is free to shape and exhibit according to one’s wishes.
Dang, that's a dispassionate way of saying "late adolescent males gotta do what late adolescent males do."  Freedom of choice, though, well, that's part of the Purfuit of Happiness, is it not?
This cultural “recalibration” could turn out to be a far more powerful liberalizing force than state intervention. Repression, real or imagined, tends to unify people around that which is or appears to be being repressed. Absorbing it into the mainstream, though, leaves little to unite around.

As someone who has criticized dogmatic, totalistic forms of Islam, it might seem unfair for me to spin around and say that these liberal manifestations of the faith are somehow areligious (by which I do not mean the individuals themselves, whose hearts I have no window into, but their public practice). Am I promoting an Islamified “no true Scotsman” fallacy?

Yet Muslims are not alone in being subjected to this tendency. American liberal capitalism has a unique ability to individualize and materialize all structures of belief that claim to have objective transcendent meaning. Nowhere else could the “prosperity gospel” of Joel Osteen or the hyper-progressive pro-sex Christianity of Nadia Bolz-Weber have emerged. That it has done so much to liberalize perhaps the world’s most creedal, anti-modern faith speaks to the astonishing scale of its power. A thousand Christopher Hitchenses hammering out columns on the cruelty and irrationality of faith could not in their wildest dreams have hoped to achieve so much.
Consider, also, the evolution of mosque architecture.  Bet on emergence.

SLOWLY, THEY COME AROUND.

Inside Higher Ed provides Arthur M. Hauptman, who describes himself as "a public policy consultant specializing in higher education finance issues," which is a fancy way of saying "swamp denizen," with a platform to consider "Refinancing Remediation."
Every year, because of inadequacies in the K-12 education process, millions of students enrolling in college must take at least one remedial course in math or English because they are not fully prepared for college or career. Although estimates vary, it seems at least one half of community college students and one-fifth of students in four-year colleges take at least one remedial course; many more students enrolling in for-profit schools require remediation, whether they take a course or not. It is also clear that rates of remediation are higher for students from low-income families than they are for the average college student. Of even greater concern, the probability that students taking remedial courses will graduate is much smaller than the already modest completion rates in American higher education.

The most objectionable part of the current student aid system is how this remediation is financed. Students who take remedial courses are typically charged the same tuition as for college-level courses, even though remedial courses usually cost institutions less because class sizes are large and adjunct professors or instructors teach these courses.
Catch that "because of inadequacies?" Caused by whom? Blank-out.

Regular readers understand that it's not right to require collegians to pay for high school twice, which, no matter whether you call it "remediation" or "development" or "accommodation" or "special education" is what you're doing.  That's true whether you put your best teachers or the adjunct whose c.v. came over the transom yesterday or a circus clown moonlighting in the off-season in the classroom.

Apparently the matriculants who turn up in the remedial classes often have deficiencies in other basic skills, which leads Mr Hauptman to the following leap of logic.
For these reasons, this system of paying for remediation must be fixed so that we avoid a continuation of current situation in which millions of students take on large debts they have little chance of repaying. The high school dropouts and graduates requiring remediation also deserve a system in which the chances of their improving their basic skills are significantly improved. And to the extent these changes would improve the basic skills of those who now can’t compete in today’s workforce, this may be the single most important thing we can do to improve our national ability to compete globally.
Let's leave that "national ability to compete globally" aside, as it's a screaming non-sequitur.  "[K]nowledge-intensive high-technology products can be produced using high-skilled workers (think iron puddlers and Web designers) or using low-skilled workers with easy-to-use machinery (think automobile assembly plants and picture presets on McDonald's cash registers.)" Perhaps higher education can produce more of the first type of worker (although that will depress earnings); it's up to entrepreneurs to adapt production technologies to the second type of worker (which has the effect of raising earnings).  Let's work backwards, perhaps that "system in which the chances of their improving their basic skills" is something other than Woke Education, in which, somehow, the students who develop those skills are implicitly sell-outs, "code shifters," to use the current locution.  That gets us back to the heart of the matter.  Instead of the Divine Passive, "must be fixed," let's come up with some action items.  First, identify the high schools that are sending graduates out unprepared.  Second, send them the bill.

Mr Hauptman is not ready to go there yet.
To do this, the financing of remediation should be overhauled so that providers are compensated based on their ability to improve the basic skills of students taking remedial courses and students no longer pay tuition or need to borrow for these courses. That would require moving to a performance-based system of remediation in which students would not be charged tuition for any remedial courses they take. Instead, federal, state and local governments would pay colleges, schools and the other providers of remediation a fee by for doing so, with the providers who do the best job of increasing the competencies of students getting the most reimbursement and the most business.
At least one commenter is.

PINK-ON-PINK FRATRICIDE.

Apparently not just anybody should be running the Voice of (Leftist) America, according to Laura Flanders.
I don’t know about you, but I take a teeny weeny bit of offense when a guy in a glass house lobs a great big stone and expects me not to notice the sound of shattering.

Which brings me to National Public Radio. When the ubiquitous news and public affairs network announced the appointment of a new CEO, it noted that John Lansing made his mark in his current job with “stirring defenses of journalism, free from government interference.”

This had me picking through the shards when they went on to explain that Lansing comes to NPR from the United States Agency for Global Media, a federally-funded organization whose express mission is to interfere in journalism by doing it, in such as way as to promote American policy values all across the world.
Hilarious. It doesn't matter whether the release writer was somebody steeped in the ways of Public Radio, which is to say, carrying water for the Permanent Bipartisan Establishment, or a recently-hired hack attempting to pad a resume while there is a Trump presidency and a bit of maneuvering room for libertarians.

The use of public money for radio programming is censorship per se, whether that's explicitly in the mission statement, as in "promote American policy values," or hidden under a lot of Kultursmog about "inclusion" or "diversity" or whatever it is that makes public radio the default news source on almost any campus.

This Flanders babe sounds like she's a lot of fun to hang out with.
Lansing’s not the first NPR director to come from VOA. Nor is he, of course, the first stale, pale male heading up an organization that claims it wants to move into the 21st Century. But jeez. The hypocrisy is hard to take. What next? A Morning Edition report on kettles being black?
Radios come with a tuning circuit and an on-off switch. I understand there are some good pennant races going on in baseball right now.

24.9.19

IS SOMEBODY READING COLD SPRING SHOPS?

Here's an infrastructure question from a year ago.  "As of yet, there are no plans to run tracks into Port Everglades Quay (that place is big enough that you'd probably have to install moving sidewalks to provide connections, particularly to the voyages catering to older folks.)"

Today, I'm reading about a possible development in a port to the south.  "Virgin Hotels plans to open a property In downtown Miami less than a mile from Virgin Voyages’ future Terminal V at the port."  Read on, it gets interesting.
Last week commmissioners approved plans for Virgin Voyages’ terminal, to go at the northwest end of the port, close to downtown Miami.

The potential location for a train station on port property has not been disclosed.

Virgin Trains currently has a marketing agreement with MSC Cruises, and passengers sailing on any cruise line from South Florida ports can take advantage of ‘Train to Port’ packages.
The return of the Boat Train, forsooth!

SAY NO TO HECTORING FROM WOKESTERS.

That might be why we have Barstool Sports.
Of course, saying there’s a niche market for resisting progressive hectoring in sports is a lot like saying there’s a niche market for Evian in the Sahara Desert: Trust me, you’re gonna get takers—especially since sports used to be the thing that united us. It didn’t matter what color you were, how much money you made, where you came from or even how bad you smelled. If you cheered the same team, you were a member of the club. But since that also involved a lot of drinking, yelling, belching and ogling cheerleaders, woke culture had to declare war on everything that made sports fun. Thank God Barstool Sports came along to counter that trend.
I'd note, that is, when woke culture is taking the fun out of, for instance, women's sports.  But when NBC give a platform to an intersectionality studies professor at Michigan (let's see, the Victors just went down bigly to Bucky Badger, but I digress), one Lisa Nakamura, who has trouble wrapping her brain around the concept of a safe space.
Barstool Sports, Nakamura said, strikes a chord with its primary target audience — young white men — because it casts them as the “persecuted ones” of mainstream, politically correct culture. Men who feel disadvantaged by the world around them see the platform as a safe space where freedom of speech means voicing unpopular and sometimes offensive opinions without consequence.
You'd think the explanation would be obvious, nicht wahr?
Um, maybe that’s because young white men are the designated boogeyman of woke culture? According to the mainstream media, they’re responsible for everything from terrorism to global warming. Hell, the whole concept of “toxic masculinity” revolves exclusively around young and old white men—pretty much the only ethnic group you’re allowed to stereotype these days. More than that, progressives actually encourage >it. If white dudes feeling a bit put upon, it’s ain’t like the culture has been valuing their existence lately.

Anyway, if resistance to this nonsense begins with sports—that last bastion of masculinity outside of auto repair shops—then let it rip like the juiciest of bean burrito flatulence. It’s long past due.
So mote it be.

GIVE US WHAT WE WANT, OR WE'LL THROW A TEMPER TANTRUM.

You'd think Richard Fulmer is being outrageous to make a point.
“Give me what I want, or I’ll burn it all down and bring incalculable misery on everyone” is the most infantile, selfish attitude imaginable, yet it’s routinely portrayed as enlightened and caring. And this attitude is, unfortunately, no longer the sole property of the left.
And yet, well, Jacobins gotta Jacobin.
We do not simply seek to change the boundaries between the public and private sector; as socialists it is our position that profit extracted by capitalists should not exist. Abandoning the goal of socializing residual sectors because they are not destroying the planet or posing an existential threat to our project would be a historic mistake.
Chris Hedges is perpetually cranky.
We have to let go of our relentless positivism, our absurd mania for hope, our naive belief that with grit and determination we can solve all problems. We have to face the bleakness before us. We live in a world already heavily damaged by global warming, which will inevitably get worse. Refusal to participate in the further destruction of the planet means a rupture with traditional politics. It means noncooperation with authority. It means defying in every nonviolent way possible consumer capitalism, militarism and imperialism. It means adjusting our lifestyle, including becoming vegans, to thwart the forces bent upon our annihilation. And it means waves of sustained civil disobedience until the machine is broken.
These people must be real fun at parties, although perhaps having fun is participating in the further destruction of the planet.

Jessica Garraway wants the existing tantrums to get louder.
“We demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.”

There has been controversy that such a stand could alienate people, white people specifically. To that I say this: Our goal is to get 3.5% of the population mobilized. It’s time to stop thinking about our target audience as middle class white people. Those who are already fighting are the most likely to join us in mass. Whether it be social pollutions such as police terrorism, or environmental threats such as tar sands and pipelines, the truth remains the same: poor Black and indiginous [c.q.] people who are on the frontlines of the struggle are the most likely to throw down.

People should support the strategy of Extinction Rebellion to coordinate nationwide disruption of business as usual. Fighting individual infrastructure fights can only take us so far. It will take US cities nationally coming to a standstill in order to make pivotal changes around climate justice. Given our dire situation nothing short of mass scale rebellion is necessary to meet this crisis head on. Still, the movement also would do well to fund and materially support these frontline groups doing direct action. Far too often frontline defenders are running on shoestring budgets while white dominated liberal nonprofits rake in millions. People with resources serious about the climate crisis should also consider sponsoring frontline land and water defenders. Too often I have seen those risking the most for the earth and their communities struggle to pay their rent and take care of their children. The money and resources are there but its not reaching the frontline.
Show me something constructive, first. An end to the tribal warfare in Chicago, for instance.

And stop frightening the kids.
Throughout all modern history, when we humans see a problem coming from far away, we have a 100% success rate in solving it. Climate change is no different. All the right people are working hard at a wide variety of solutions and already know how to get there, meaning more nuclear power plus CO2 scrubbers, plus lots of green power from solar, wind, and more.

If you are worried about rising sea levels, don’t be. The smartest and richest people in the world are still buying property on the beach. They don’t see the problem. And if sea levels do rise, it will happen slowly enough for people to adjust.

Adults sometimes like to use children to carry their messages because it makes it hard for the other side to criticize them without seeming like monsters. If adults have encouraged you to panic about climate change without telling you what I am telling you here, they do not have your best interests at heart. They are using you.
Perhaps what makes the Jacobin - Common Dreams crowd so shrill is not their conviction that trade-tested betterments are not up to the job. It is their fear that emergence will render their current list of scare topics as nugatory as it did their prior lists.

THE CASE FOR FREQUENCY AND DEPENDABILITY.

New York Times travel writer Elaine Glusac contemplates "avoid the strain, take the train."
From Chicago, there are a number of ways to travel the 300 miles to St. Louis. American, Southwest and United Airlines fly direct in about an hour and 15 minutes, with fares recently running $165 to $350 round trip. Normally, I drive the rear-numbing route through the corn fields, which takes about five hours and leaves me exhausted. But on my last trip, I took Amtrak, a five-hour-and-20-minute trip at $62 round trip that deposited me downtown near my hotel.

Compared to flying, I saved at least $100 and some degree of stress; the train requires no security screening, allowing me to show up just minutes before departure. There were no mandatory seatbelts or admonitions to stay seated, and when the free Wi-Fi didn’t work, which sometimes happens with the paid Wi-Fi in the air, I had access to the internet through my cellphone data plan. I was free to stretch and roam, though that mostly meant padding to the bar car for tea refills.

Why trade a roughly 75-minute flight for a 320-minute train ride? Conversely, time. Once you factor in the commute to the airport (in my case, one hour), suggested arrival at least an hour before takeoff, runway taxiing at touchdown, disembarkation and traveling to your destination (often an hour), flying takes about 255 minutes. I accepted the 65-minute difference as a productivity trade-off and the price of peace of mind.
Implicitly, she's making the case for more frequent trains on the Alton Route, and it wouldn't hurt to cut in that 110 mph running between Joliet and Alton.  At the same time, she didn't even mention the joys of being stuck behind a semi overtaking a tandem along the ole' double nickel.  We can excuse her, as a scribe for a coastal paper, for not noting the non-connection between, say, Milwaukee trains and the Michigan or downstate Illinois trains.

Nor should we be surprised that she'd be pleased by the value proposition offered by Amtrak's Acela and Northeast Regional services, whether for New York - Washington, New York - Boston, or going the whole Boston - Washington.  The old San Diegan route, which has been augmented with additional frequencies and some 90 mph running, also scores well.  (I'm not sure if she actually sampled the trains.)
Given the utility of a car in Southern California, many may want to drive the 120 miles between Los Angeles and San Diego, though traffic backups can add to transit time.

Hipmunk found the median round-trip train price was $46, and flights $129 for a savings of $83. I found tickets on the Pacific Surfliner running $70 round trip and flights on United from $139, for a savings of $69. The train takes roughly two hours and 45 minutes, and adding commuting time to the one-hour flight brings travel time to four hours. The train wins both measurements, saving an hour and nearly $70.
There's enough Regional Rail that perhaps a commuter train or the trolley or a ride-share provide that final mile.  Note also that the one daily Vancouver, B. C. to Seattle, Washington, train wins both on time and money, as clearing security and customs at the airport take a long time.

The final entry she proposes is ... cross-Florida?
About 260 miles separate Tampa from Fort Lauderdale. Hipmunk has the median round-trip train ticket between them at $59, and flights at $173 for a $114 savings. I found round-trip flights from $150 on Southwest and train fare on the Silver Star route at $68, for a difference of $82.

Travel time one way by train is four hours and 40 minutes. The flight takes about 70 minutes. Adding three hours for ground transit comes to four hours and 10 minutes by air. By spending 30 more minutes on the train, you could save $82. Sounds like a deal.
Stick close to your desk, and never ride a train, and you may be the travel writer for New York's Times.  I'd hesitate to recommend that trip, particularly if your travel plans are at all time-sensitive, as the Silver Star comes all the way from New York, passes through Orlando to Tampa, then changes ends and passes through Orlando to Miami.  Perhaps that future Brightline extension beyond Orlando will change the incentives.

JUST FOCUS ON WHAT YOU'RE GOOD AT.

A College Fix editorial writer takes on equal pay for unequal work.  "Sorry, feminists and progressives: Men are better athletes."  It continues in predictable ways.  "The Women’s World Cup brought back to life the tired canard that those with two X chromosomes deserve the same pay and recognition as those born with and X and Y."  Then a student journalist comes in for scorn.
Needless to say, facts don’t matter to some, including USC student Jordan Mickle. In a Daily Trojan op-ed, Mickle blasts the alleged “mistreatment” of female athletes, and calls pay differences “outrageous.”

Why, Mickle asks, does the NBA’s New Jersey Nets still draw large numbers of spectators despite their poor record, while the Los Angeles Sparks, winner of three WNBA titles, struggle to bring in fans?
Part of the problem is that the women's pro league schedule its games during the summer, this being in part an attempt by the (men's) National Basketball Association, that "NBA" in the acronym being there for a reason to not cannibalize either of its products.  Then, in an attempt to signal that they're a Serious Enterprise, their tickets go for serious prices.  Thus, possible spectators face two dis-incentives, a timing one and a monetary one, to watch the Sparks or the Sky or the Mystic or those other exotic names play.

It's also possible, as the Fix columnist suggests, that the dose of wokeness that often accompanies womens' sports turns people off.
Perhaps, one day, if a Bernie Sandersesque socialist utopia comes to America, folks like Mickle can mandate attendance at women’s sporting events … and if you don’t cheer wildly you’ll be sent off to sensitivity training.
The identity politics gets in the way of watching honor students play the game they're capable of playing well, of firing up enthusiastic little kids, of getting spectators interested in making noise for a pizza.  Maybe the wokescolds would have more success suggesting to their readers "Hey, you're missing a good game."  The recognition and the revenue are trailing indicators.

20.9.19

WATCH THIS SPACE.

Years ago, Matt "Dean Dad" Reed teased me about all the model railroad stuff he had to wade through to go with the contrarian perspective I was providing him on higher education.  I noted that the best was yet to come.

Now he's asking a question of readers. "Wise and worldly readers who have retired, to the extent that you’re comfortable answering the question, how did you know when it was time?"

Simple.
The legislature has not chosen to fund the universities adequately, nor has it corrected the ham-handed pension reform that has driven about one-fifth of the faculty and staff, along with the institutional memory carried therein, into retirement.

The university has not chosen to properly staff the academic departments, nor has it recognized that making increased demands on the fewer remaining faculty in the absence of any merit money is unlikely to yield enthusiastic participation on committees or a harvest of high-quality publications.

And the subtle denigration of mainstream white guys as less desirable hires or as majors continues.

But I no longer have the opportunity in meetings or other forums to argue against those follies.

Nor need I be complicit in them any longer.
His column has elicited a variety of responses, some along lines I offered, some different.  As one of the commenters noted, "you don't leave a role for no role."
They left because they had other things they wanted to do, while they were still physically capable of doing them. One of my favorite people, back at CCM, told me that she knew it was time to go when she couldn’t bring herself to put quite as much into grading papers as she used to. She believed that the students deserved excellent feedback, and she could feel hers starting to slip. By my lights, she was still a star, but she was more interested in having an interesting and adventurous retirement than in becoming a steadily less effective teacher. I admired that.
Sometimes, what students understand as proper feedback differs from what the professor believes it is. But I digress.

Here's the space we're watching.


Southwest corner of the basement, July 2015, a year into retirement.



Same general area, around Thanksgiving of 2015, to provide a tail track for the staging yard going up along the west wall.  (I finally pitched that wood chair back there as beyond economical repair.)


The goal by the March Meet of 2018 was to have trains running on the continuous track up high.  I met that goal.


The Gloucester Branch will occupy the space being filled in.  I'm particular about keeping sections I want level to be level: even with a house built new for the railroad, there are some unevennesses in the floor.  Some of those structural members are left over from previous railroads.  Waste not, want not.

Sometimes, the power tools get backed up by vintage hand tools.


That spot is no longer useful for stowing tools.


Good running trains require solid roadbed.  At right, the spline in place, not yet sanded for installation of the Homasote trackbed.  The full treatment is visible at left, where a cork roadbed supports the main tracks, the better to distinguish them from the sidings.  "High iron" is a term of art for a reason.

THE ULTIMATE IN UN-SELF-AWARE ENTITLEMENT?

It all started when Atlantic scribe George Packer's kid didn't screen for Harvard Prep Day Care.
Our son underwent his first school interview soon after turning 2. He’d been using words for about a year. An admissions officer at a private school with brand-new, beautifully and sustainably constructed art and dance studios gave him a piece of paper and crayons. While she questioned my wife and me about our work, our son drew a yellow circle over a green squiggle.

Rather coolly, the admissions officer asked him what it was. “The moon,” he said. He had picked this moment to render his very first representational drawing, and our hopes rose. But her jaw was locked in an icy and inscrutable smile.

Later, at a crowded open house for prospective families, a hedge-fund manager from a former Soviet republic told me about a good public school in the area that accepted a high percentage of children with disabilities. As insurance against private school, he was planning to grab a spot at this public school by gaming the special-needs system—which, he added, wasn’t hard to do.

Wanting to distance myself from this scheme, I waved my hand at the roomful of parents desperate to cough up $30,000 for preschool and said, “It’s all a scam.” I meant the whole business of basing admissions on interviews with 2-year-olds. The hedge-fund manager pointed out that if he reported my words to the admissions officer, he’d have one less competitor to worry about.

When the rejection letter arrived, I took it hard as a comment on our son, until my wife informed me that the woman with the frozen smile had actually been interviewing us. We were the ones who’d been rejected. We consoled ourselves that the school wasn’t right for our family, or we for it. It was a school for amoral finance people.

At a second private school, my wife watched intently with other parents behind a one-way mirror as our son engaged in group play with other toddlers, their lives secured or ruined by every share or shove. He was put on the wait list.
And yet, as we'll see, the Packers (not to be confused with the ones in Green Bay) are every bit as determined as those "amoral finance people" to get their spawn the best possible start at ticking the boxes (the right high school, the right extracurriculars, the right university, the right networking opportunities.)
The system that dominates our waking hours, commands our unthinking devotion, and drives us, like orthodox followers of an exacting faith, to extraordinary, even absurd feats of exertion is not democracy, which often seems remote and fragile. It’s meritocracy—the system that claims to reward talent and effort with a top-notch education and a well-paid profession, its code of rigorous practice and generous blessings passed down from generation to generation. The pressure of meritocracy made us apply to private schools when our son was 2—not because we wanted him to attend private preschool, but because, in New York City, where we live, getting him into a good public kindergarten later on would be even harder, and if we failed, by that point most of the private-school slots would be filled. As friends who’d started months earlier warned us, we were already behind the curve by the time he drew his picture of the moon. We were maximizing options—hedging, like the finance guy, like many families we knew—already tracing the long line that would lead to the horizon of our son’s future.
I get so tired of these people, way better connected than anyone growing up within earshot of Union Pacific or Canadian Pacific, crying with their mouths full.
True meritocracy came closest to realization with the rise of standardized tests in the 1950s, the civil-rights movement, and the opening of Ivy League universities to the best and brightest, including women and minorities. A great broadening of opportunity followed. But in recent decades, the system has hardened into a new class structure in which professionals pass on their money, connections, ambitions, and work ethic to their children, while less educated families fall further behind, with little chance of seeing their children move up.

When parents on the fortunate ledge of this chasm gaze down, vertigo stuns them. Far below they see a dim world of processed food, obesity, divorce, addiction, online-education scams, stagnant wages, outsourcing, rising morbidity rates—and they pledge to do whatever they can to keep their children from falling. They’ll stay married, cook organic family meals, read aloud at bedtime every night, take out a crushing mortgage on a house in a highly rated school district, pay for music teachers and test-prep tutors, and donate repeatedly to overendowed alumni funds. The battle to get their children a place near the front of the line begins before conception and continues well into their kids’ adult lives. At the root of all this is inequality—and inequality produces a host of morbid symptoms, including a frantic scramble for status among members of a professional class whose most prized acquisition is not a Mercedes plug-in hybrid SUV or a family safari to Maasai Mara but an acceptance letter from a university with a top‑10 U.S. News & World Report ranking.
It took him long enough to get to the point, which is that the U.S. News problem exists in part because the universities less favorably ranked have created academic gulags that do little to help young people seeking a way out of that dim world, all in the name of Access.

Apparently, though, it's OK to cram access-assessment-remediation-retention and the Diversity Boondoggle down on the Deplorables, never mind the resentments that might fester.
The claim of democracy doesn’t negate meritocracy, but they’re in tension. One values equality and openness, the other achievement and security. Neither can answer every need. To lose sight of either makes life poorer. The essential task is to bring meritocracy and democracy into a relation where they can coexist and even flourish.

My wife and I are products of public schools. Whatever torments they inflicted on our younger selves, we believed in them. We wanted our kids to learn in classrooms that resembled the city where we lived. We didn’t want them to grow up entirely inside our bubble—mostly white, highly and expensively educated—where 4-year-olds who hear 21,000 words a day acquire the unearned confidence of insular advantage and feel, even unconsciously, that they’re better than other people’s kids.
Once upon a time, the common schools inculcated bourgeois habits.  No more, and that's where the troubles begin.
Our “zoned” elementary school, two blocks from our house, was forever improving on a terrible reputation, but not fast enough. Friends had pulled their kids out after second or third grade, so when we took the tour we insisted, against the wishes of the school guide, on going upstairs from the kindergarten classrooms and seeing the upper grades, too. Students were wandering around the rooms without focus, the air was heavy with listlessness, there seemed to be little learning going on. Each year the school was becoming a few percentage points less poor and less black as the neighborhood gentrified, but most of the white kids were attending a “gifted and talented” school within the school, where more was expected and more was given. The school was integrating and segregating at the same time.

One day I was at a local playground with our son when I fell into conversation with an elderly black woman who had lived in the neighborhood a long time and understood all about our school dilemma, which was becoming the only subject that interested me. She scoffed at our “zoned” school—it had been badly run for so long that it would need years to become passable. I mentioned a second school, half a dozen blocks away, that was probably available if we applied. Her expression turned to alarm. “Don’t send him there,” she said. “That’s a failure school. That school will always be a failure school.” It was as if an eternal curse had been laid on it, beyond anyone’s agency or remedy. The school was mostly poor and black. We assumed it would fail our children, because we knew it was failing other children.
Wait, what, there's some value in inculcating bourgeois habits, rather than throwing pejoratives like "code shift into white supremacy culture" around?  Unfortunately, the Wokesters are in control, and ruination follows.
At times the new progressivism, for all its up-to-the-minuteness, carries a whiff of the 17th century, with heresy hunts and denunciations of sin and displays of self-mortification. The atmosphere of mental constriction in progressive milieus, the self-censorship and fear of public shaming, the intolerance of dissent—these are qualities of an illiberal politics.

I asked myself if I was moving to the wrong side of a great moral cause because its tone was too loud, because it shook loose what I didn’t want to give up. It took me a long time to see that the new progressivism didn’t just carry my own politics further than I liked. It was actually hostile to principles without which I don’t believe democracy can survive. Liberals are always slow to realize that there can be friendly, idealistic people who have little use for liberal values.
I think that's called "mugging by reality." Matthew Continetti suggests that's just business as usual when the vanguardists get control.
Packer is too liberal, and too careful, to say whether he is willing to press charges against the corruption of American public education by radicals intent on social transformation. Time and again, radicals have displaced liberals only because the liberals, wracked with guilt, lack the will to stop them. “Watching your children grow up gives you a startlingly vivid image of the world you’re going to leave them,” Packer writes. “I can’t say I’m sanguine.”

None of us should be.
Perhaps they ought to get out of their coastal bubble, let their kids live in earshot of Union Pacific.

It's not as if inter alia Rod Dreher haven't issued warnings.
The authoritarianism and radicalism of progressive ideology has destroyed what schools are supposed to be, and, in the liberal writer’s anxious view, are kicking the supports out from underneath liberal democracy.

Is there anything that the new woke progressivism touches that it doesn’t destroy? If it weren’t for the fact that one of the parents at that school is a nationally known journalist with a prominent platform, would any of us know what a disaster the militant left has made of the nation’s largest school system, all because of identity politics?
Neo-Neocon suggests that if Mr Packer wants to continue the fight, there are people willing to stand with him.
Packer is sad and he’s bewildered. He doesn’t really know how this all came up, doesn’t connect the dots, and he doesn’t know what to do. The idea that the right has some answers never really occurs to him. I sympathize with him in his struggle, and wonder where it may ultimately lead. At the moment, the cognitive dissonance is fierce.

I didn’t really write this post to muse on the dilemma of George Packer the individual. But he’s especially interesting to me because I believe he stands for a large group of liberals who are currently wrestling with the consequences of what they supported, thinking the results would be good, and finding that the left had other and more terrible things in mind.
It promises to get more interesting, when those amoral finance people and their allegedly so refined counterparts in the chattering classes discover that there isn't anybody who knows how to fix their Tesla or their air conditioner.

DAVID BROOKS ATTEMPTS TO WRITE A KURT SCHLICHTER NOVEL.

Relax, there are no swashbuckling episodes or shoot-em-ups.  There is Elizabeth Warren rubbing Normals the wrong way.
A crisis of legitimacy swept across American politics in the second decade of the 21st century. Many people had the general conviction that the old order was corrupt and incompetent. There was an inchoate desire for some radical transformation. This mood swept the Republican Party in 2016 as Donald Trump eviscerated the G.O.P. establishment and it swept through the Democratic Party in 2020.
That's one way of looking at it.  As is anticipating that Fauxahontas is able to bring a favorable Congress in on her travois.
Warren won convincingly. The Democrats built a bigger majority in the House, and to general surprise, won a slim Senate majority of 52 to 48.

After that election, the Republicans suffered a long, steady decline. Trump was instantly reviled by everyone — he had no loyal defenders. Only 8 percent of young people called themselves conservatives. Republican voters, mostly older, were dying out, and they weren’t making new ones. For the ensuing two decades the party didn’t resonate beyond its white rural base.
Since it's not clear what "conservative" even means these days, and since the Democrat coalition is unstable, reality might not turn out to the advantage of the coastal chattering classes.
The American educated class celebrated the Warren victory with dance-in-the-street euphoria. In staffing her administration, she rejected the experienced Clinton-Obama holdovers and brought in a new cadre from the progressive left.

The euphoria ended when Warren tried to pass her legislative agenda. One by one, her proposals failed in the Senate: Medicare for all, free college, decriminalizing undocumented border crossing, even the wealth tax. Democratic senators from red states, she learned, were still from red states; embracing her agenda would have been suicidal. Warren and her aides didn’t help. Fired by their sense of moral superiority, they were good at condemnation, not coalition-building.
Here's where she doesn't use that moral superiority to issue executive orders and fracture the country.

(There's going to be a longish political science study, some day, on how electing Democrats from red states contributed to a party realignment that redounded to the benefit of Republicans and conservatives.  Expect to see "populist" a lot in that study.)
When the recession of 2021 hit, things got ugly. The failure of two consecutive presidencies had a devastating effect on American morale. It became evident that the nation had three political tendencies — conservative populism, progressive populism and moderate liberalism. None of them could put together a governing majority to get things done.
When is it going to occur to Mr Brooks and the rest of the regulars on the Sunday shows that "failed presidencies" might be desirable? That the states are not operating divisions of the federal government? That devolution, rather than a Split, might be desirable.

In Mr Brooks's scenario, we don't get the Wokesters setting up guillotines.
Before Warren, people thought of liberals and progressives as practically synonymous. After Warren, it was clear they were different, with different agendas and different national narratives.

Moderate liberals had a basic faith in American institutions and thought they just needed reform. They had basic faith in capitalism and the Constitution and revered the classical liberal philosophy embedded in America’s founding. They inherited Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s millennial nationalism, a sense that America has a special destiny as the last best hope of earth.

Progressives had much less faith in American institutions — in capitalism, the Constitution, the founding. They called for more structural change to things like the Supreme Court, the Electoral College and the basic structures of the market. Trump’s victory in 2016 had served for them as proof that racism is the dominant note in American history, that the founding was 1619, not 1776. They were willing to step on procedural liberalism in order to get radical change.
That second paragraph might apply, equally, to constitutional conservatives, whether or not they got on board with Mr Trump, whether they ask for a Republican or a Libertarian ballot in the primary.
With the Republicans powerless and irrelevant, the war within the Democratic Party grew vicious. Progressives detested moderate liberals even more than they did conservatives. The struggle came to a head with another set of Democratic primaries in 2024.

The moderate liberals triumphed easily. It turns out that the immigrant groups, by then a large and organized force in American politics, had not lost faith in the American dream, they had not lost faith in capitalism. They simply wanted more help so they could compete within it.

By 2030, progressive populism burned out as right-wing populism had. The Democrats became the nation’s majority party. This party ran on a one-word platform: unity. After decades of culture, class and demographic warfare, moderate liberals defined America as a universal nation, a pluralistic nation, embracing all and seeking opportunity for all.

In a wildly diverse nation, voters handed power to leaders who were coalition-builders not fighters. The whole tenor of American politics changed.
That's perhaps the optimistic resolution of a fourth turning.

Throw in a regional war either in the Persian Gulf or the subcontinent, or those weather extremes the prophets of doom keep invoking, or a major earthquake in California or a volcanic eruption, and things might not turn out so well.

PANTSUIT ON FIRE.

Crooked Hillary Clinton must have had a bad batch of Chardonnay.  "Between 27,000 and 200,000 Wisconsinites were 'turned away' from the polls in 2016 due to lack of proper identification." When that's too much even for Politi Fact Wisconsin, one of those drive-by media initiatives that generally puts the best possible Democratic spin on contested claims and calls it fact-checking, maybe it's time for the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua to just step back from the limelight.  "Clinton’s numbers still aren’t anywhere close to accurate."  OK, that's the diplomatic way of putting things, but why should this statement from a Clinton be any different from any other statement from a Clinton?  "This is the third time we have rated claims from Clinton on the Wisconsin turnout. She’s no closer on this one than the last one."

IS IT TIME FOR A LEGISLATIVE DEATH SENTENCE?

Richard Vedder, economics emeritus from Ohio University (yes, that's another Mid-American program) welcomes California's legislative mandate that college athletes get paid.

His column, starting with commentary on a survey (recall, dear reader, that economists aren't fond of surveys) likely reflects his experience with #MACtion.  "[Students] are indifferent to college sports, think it shouldn’t have much impact on college admissibility, and that student athletes should be able to make some money over their athletic success."  Around the Mid-American, I have to wonder how many survey respondents are aware of the activity fees that support the intercollegiate sports, meaning students who use food pantries are paying for nutrition coaches for the players who might get a few bucks from their images turning up on a video game.

Substantively, Mr Vedder welcomes legislative action.
Moving from campuses to capitals, California almost certainly is going to tell the NCAA: go to hell. The Governor (Gavin Newsom) is expected to sign a bill passed with broad bipartisan support allowing students to profit off their name, image, and likeness. Mark Emmert, the head of the NCAA, who in an earlier life was president of the University of Washington, has fulminated aggressively, hinting that California schools could be shut out of national championship competition, a threat that I view as both unlikely to be approved even within the NCAA and almost certain would end that sports cartel in its current form, as it would finally lead Congress to act about this national scandal called college sports.
It's not clear how this California law applies to, say, Stanford or the University of Spoiled Children, but do you toss the Bears and the Bruins out of whatever number that Pacific conference trades under these days?

Then, for better or worse, Congress gets involved.
Meanwhile, Congress is starting to stir. Mark Walker, a Republican Congressman from North Carolina, wants to yank the NCAA’s tax-exempt status if it does not change its policy on athletes financially benefiting from their own name. My friend and colleague Dave Ridpath, president of the reformist Drake Group, tells me that there is growing interest on Capitol Hill among such Democratic stalwarts as Connecticut’s Senator Chris Murphy (who has been especially outspoken) and Florida Representative (and former university president) Donna Shalala, as well as such conservative Republicans as Ohio’s Steve Stivers, in federal intervention reducing the sleaze, anti-academic nature, and scandals miring contemporary intercollegiate athletics.
On the one hand, Donna "Queen of Clubs" Shalala is a Democrat, meaning she isn't likely ever to encounter a tax she doesn't like, particularly if it looks like "the rich" are getting soaked.  On the other hand, she earned that high sheepshead ranking by her work at Syracuse (at the time a football factory), Wisconsin (which she managed to turn into a sports factory, whilst demonstrating the value of bringing in out of state students for the parties), and Miami (I'll be polite.)

I hope Mr Vedder is aware of Representative Shalala's possible conflicts of interest.
A National Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics consisting of prestigious Americans almost entirely directly unconnected with collegiate sports is one intriguing proposal. As a former member of a federal commission myself, I am abundantly aware of their limitations, and extreme care is needed in crafting one, not allowing it to be controlled by politicians or those in the collegiate sports industry. But at the worse a piddling amount of money is wasted, and at best some good ideas can come about that preserve the peculiar American institution of intercollegiate athletic competition and its entertainment value, while reducing the excesses and the corruption associated with it. Limits need to be placed on the use of athlete’s time, control needs to reside within academic areas of universities, the NCAA needs to be neutered, team practices, season length, and coaching staffs need trimming, etc. During the Cold War, international treaties were required to control the arms race; so perhaps a “treaty” is needed via the political process to contain the arms race in intercollegiate athletics.
I'm not sure what he means by "prestigious" Americans or what "directly unconnected with collegiate sports" means. Wasn't the original conception of the regulatory commission to assemble Dispassionate Experts, meaning people who understand something about what it is they're regulating, whilst with the probity to resist the subornation that accompanies any such action?

Now, if we're going to have such a treaty, the first thing that has to go is weeknight football.

LET'S GRIDLOCK THE WILD CARD.

Never mind those election scenarios that lead to an electoral deadlock.  We've got quite the pennant race going in the National League.  Suppose, just for fun, the Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, and Nationals all finish with the same record?  The mathematics is there, as the Cubs and Cardinals have six more games with each other, giving the Cubs a chance to catch, while the Nationals have eleven remaining games to the Central teams' nine each, and five of those are with Philadelphia, which still has a fighting chance, although in this four-way tie, the Nationals hold off the Phillies.

19.9.19

BACK IN ONE PIECE.

The Electroliner ran as a fixed-formation train, with all the attendant challenges of maintenance, or of dealing with unexpectedly large passenger loads.


Norwich Street, Town of Lake.
John Karlson photograph, September 1958.

One of the trains has been in preservation at Illinois Railway Museum.  With abandonment in 1963, continued operation in Philadelphia on a shoestring maintenance budget, and normal wear on components, the train was not operable, although it could be parked as an intact train for viewing.


A fund-raising campaign at the museum made a full rebuild of the running gear possible.  To do so, however, the train had to be disassembled.


That's a Milwaukee Electric steeple-cab behind, evidently the lead unit was pushed to Cold Spring Shops.

Over the past weekend, the train was re-assembled.  The middle units have to be placed over the trucks in the proper order.  There's still some work to be done before the train can be sent out on the demonstration railroad.


My current self will be pleased for the opportunity to offer a contrast shot.